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Does it sound strange or funny to have three prepositions in a row, as in

He jumped out from behind a dustbin?

If yes, is there a simple way to avoid it?

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    It sounds ok and it is correct. "Come now young one, if you have something to say to me, then come on out from behind there and tell me to my face.” books.google.it/… : Out from behind: books.google.com/ngrams/… – user66974 Sep 7 '15 at 6:59
  • @Josh61 You got the bolding wrong there ;) That should have been "then come on out from behind there and tell ..."! – Araucaria Sep 7 '15 at 15:32
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    @Josh61 and presumable you could also have had "come on out from behind there to over here in front of me" too! – Araucaria Sep 7 '15 at 15:36
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    Why would you want to avoid using such a beautiful construct? – Blessed Geek Sep 7 '15 at 16:01
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He jumped out from behind a dustbin?

It's perfectly okay to use this, and most people wouldn't even consider it being weird.

The reason this happens (in this case) is because the verb ends in a preposition, and the location begins with one.

Separated, the sentence becomes

He (jumped out) (from) (behind a dustbin)?

Which is grammatically similar to

He (lives) (in) (France)?

The only difference being that the parts used here don't contain prepositions.

You asked how to avoid this repetition of prepositions? Find synonyms that don't have a preposition.

He (appeared) (from) (behind a dustbin)?

However, I'm having trouble finding a sentence that avoids more than just the first preposition while still sounding fluent and unforced.

So you can avoid it, but I doubt anyone has the expectation for you to actively avoid it. It's correct the way it is.

  • A better answer to the question: "how do I avoid repetition of a preposition?" is "there's no reason to." Three or four prepositions in a row might sound weird in other languages, but it's fine in English. – Peter Shor Sep 7 '15 at 13:51
  • @PeterShor Which is basically what I ended my answer with. I replied it's possible, but by no means required or even expected. – Flater Sep 7 '15 at 13:52
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It is not unusual. He jumped out|from (his place) behind a dustbin. A similar sentence

  • The cat came out from under the bed.

The British National Corpus has listed 91 examples of "out from behind" and 122 of "out from under". http://bnc.bl.uk/saraWeb.php?qy=out+from+behind&mysubmit=Go

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